National COVID-19 Chest Imaging Database case study

At the start of the COVID-19 pandemic the National COVID-19 Chest Imaging Database (NCCID) was swiftly established by NHSX, the British Society of Thoracic Imaging (BSTI) and Royal Surrey County Hospital NHS Foundation Trust. The project evolved from initial work undertaken by BSTI to inform radiologists around the country about the chest imaging characteristics commonly seen in COVID-19.

The overarching aim of NCCID was to help clinical researchers in medical imaging and artificial intelligence fields learn as much as possible about COVID-19 by analysing a comprehensive sampling of acute chest imaging. It utilised pre-existing infrastructure to collate imaging data at scale with over 90 hospitals nationally contributing data to NCCID.

Dr Joe Jacob’s story

"As a clinical radiologist, the importance and necessity of gathering large representative imaging datasets to better understand disease evolution is clear. This is particularly relevant given the advent of artificial intelligence (AI) based computer algorithms. AI tools applied to medical imaging data have the potential to identify important imaging features that may not be recognised by the human eye. Yet for AI tools to be robust we need to provide data to computers at a large enough scale to capture the local and regional differences in disease characteristics. This is rarely achievable in most countries. Yet in the UK, the NHS uniquely has the resources to achieve just this. Under its auspices, it is possible to pull together imaging data, link it to clinical, epidemiological and genomic data and gain inferences about diseases both common and rare, acute and slowly progressive, that affect one organ or the whole body, across the entire population.

"I am delighted to see the scientific discoveries emanating from NCCID being realised. NCCID imaging data is being linked to national repositories of clinical data in COVID-19 patients and will be invaluable for the national programs studying the long-term effects of COVID-19 infection. Importantly, NCCID serves as an exemplar of how medical imaging can be collated at scale across the UK in the future to better understand the imaging characteristics and evolution of a range of diseases commonly seen and imaged in the NHS. Lastly, the work that has underpinned NCCID will also facilitate a rapid response for imaging data collection in future global diseases as COVID-19 won’t be the last pandemic we face."